Update – Drugs gang jailed for more than 100 years
The final three defendants involved in an organised crime gang managed by a convicted drug dealer from a prison cell have now been sentenced.
Christopher Campbell, Hayley Murphy and Paul Reid all appeared at Liverpool Crown Court earlier today, Friday 15 December, where they were sentenced for their involvement in a large scale organised crime gang.
Campbell, who was second in command for the group, was handed a 17 year prison sentence after being convicted of four counts of conspiracy to supply Class A drugs and two counts of conspiracy to supply Class B drugs.
Reid and Murphy were handed suspended sentences after they both pleaded guilty to money laundering. The sentences mean that the gang of 20 men and two women have been jailed for over 109 years in total.
Drugs gang jailed for over 92 years
An organised crime gang managed by a convicted drug dealer from a prison cell has today been jailed for more than 92 years.
The 20 men and two women were part of a Merseyside based drugs gang led by Lee Stoba, who was already serving a lengthy prison sentence at HMP Altcourse for drug dealing.
Stoba managed the group like a military operation from his cell, with the 21 gang members working beneath him acting as a network of couriers. They were responsible for the sourcing of Class A and B drugs, keeping them safe and then selling and distributing them to towns and cities across the UK.
Today, 8 December 2017, 19 members of the gang along with their leader, were sentenced to a total of 92 years in prison thanks to a nine-month undercover investigation by officers from Cheshire Police’s Crime Operations Unit. Two remaining members of the gang are set to be sentenced on 15 December.
Following sentencing, Detective Inspector Giles Pierce said: “These defendants were all members of a highly-sophisticated organised crime gang who were responsible for the large-scale supply of Class A and B drugs in Cheshire and further afield.
“To run their operation, the group used a series of safe houses across the region, some rented in false names, to store huge quantities of drugs destined for dealers lower down the chain in Cheshire and Scotland.
“Their leader, Stoba, truly believed that he was above the law. Despite already being behind bars for drugs offences, he believed that he could still run his criminal operations from within his prison cell.
“However, thanks to the hard work and determination of a dedicated team of officers here at the Cheshire Police’s Crime Operations Unit, Stoba, and the gang he was running, are all now facing the consequences of their actions.”
Cheshire Police and Crime Commissioner David Keane said: “I welcome today’s sentencing and I hope it acts as a deterrent to other criminals involved in the supply of illegal drugs looking to come into Cheshire to commit their crimes.
“Drugs have a detrimental impact and having seen the threat posed by organised criminal gangs, removing those involved in this activity from our communities is paramount and sends a strong message that they are not welcome in Cheshire.
“I would like to thank all of the officers and staff involved in the operation for the dedication and commitment that they have shown and I will be working closely with Cheshire Police to ensure the excellent work the Constabulary has undertaken continues.”
The operation was initially launched in May 2016 when officers began to investigate a Merseyside based crime gang who were believed to be responsible for the large-scale supply of Class A and B drugs in Cheshire, Merseyside and Scotland.
On 28 February 2017, after collecting evidence for more than nine months, officers carried out a series of dawn raids at addresses across Merseyside (including Anfield, St Helens and Wallasey along with one address in Droitwich Spa). The warrants led to the arrest of 10 men and one woman on suspicion of drugs offences. Stoba, 44, was also arrested in his prison cell at HMP Alcourse.
Stoba along with Christopher Campbell, 42; Gary Jones, 34; Ian McDonald, 31; Andrew O’Callaghan, 38; Sarah Haldon, 22; Jamie Byrne, 36; Thomas Williams, 31; Nathan Agatha, 27; Paul Reid, 34; Liam Astle, 24, and James Jefferies, 31, were all transported to custody where they were questioned and subsequently charged with conspiracy to supply Class A and B drugs.
Two weeks later, on 14 March 2017, officers conducted a second series of drugs warrants – this time focusing on gang members in Cheshire, targeting homes in Warrington, Ellesmere Port, Winsford, Widnes and Runcorn. The warrants led to the arrests of a further nine men and one woman on suspicion of drugs offences.
Shawn O’Malley, 29; Stephen Snelson, 32; Philip Pendergast, 43; Paul Fazakaley, 30; Anthony Jones, 31; Greg Carter, 27; Kieren O’Brien, 38; Tamara O’Brien, 34; Martin Salmon, 34 and Hayley Murphy, 32; were all subsequently charged with offences relating to the supply of Class A and B drugs.
The majority (17) of the gang chose to plead guilty to the charge (A variety of offences including money laundering, conspiracy to supply Cannabis, Heroin, Cocaine and Ecstasy).
The remaining five members of the gang (Stoba, Campbell, Jones, Williams and O’Callagan) chose to plead not guilty, leading to two trials at Liverpool Crown Court. During the trials the jury heard how Cheshire Police had gathered extensive evidence against the group after monitoring their movements for over nine months.
After hearing all the evidence presented against the group the jury were left with no option but to find Stoba and the remaining gang members guilty.
Prisons Minister, Sam Gyimah said:“I am determined to tackle the threat of drugs in prisons and this sentence sends a strong message that criminals who involve themselves in this type of behaviour will be caught and will be punished.
“We are continuously developing our security measures and have already equipped all prisons with portable and fixed detectors to tackle illicit use of phones in prisons.
“I am grateful to the police and this operation highlights the value of intelligence led searches.”
DI Giles Pierce concluded: “The investigation was carried out as part of Operation Impact and it shows the commitment that the force has in targeting those who undermine our communities and bring misery to residents through their involvement in organised crime and illegal drugs.
“I hope that this case sends out a clear message to others that there is no place for illegal drugs in Cheshire.
“While this investigation has now concluded our fight against organised criminals and illegal drugs will continue and I urge anyone with any information about suspected drug related activity in their area to get in touch.”
Anyone with any information can contact us directly on 101. Alternatively, information can also be passed on anonymously, via Crimestoppers, on 0800 555 111.